THE FAMILY (R)

The Family (R)

 
 
(l.  to right.)  Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Dianna Agron and John D'Leo aren't quite ordinary people in 'The Family.'
(l. to right.) Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Dianna Agron and John D'Leo aren't quite ordinary people in 'The Family.'
Jessica Forde / RELATIVITY MEDIA

Movie Info

Rating: * * * 

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Pastore.

Director: Luc Besson.

Screenwriters: Luc Besson, Michael Caleo. Based on the book by Tonino Benacquista.

Producers: Luc Besson, Ryan Kavanaugh, Virginie Silla.

A Relativity Media release. Running time: 112 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, sexual situations, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

If The Sopranos had ended with Tony turning informant and being whisked away into the witness protection program, The Family could have been a big-screen sequel to the TV show. As the movie opens, Giovanni Monzani (Robert DeNiro) is living under the alias Fred Blake in France with his wife, Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer), and two kids, Warren (John D’Leo) and Belle (Glee’s Dianna Agron). They are moving to a small town after being found out in their previous hideout on the French Riviera.

The children are complaining about the long road trip and the rank smell inside the car. Fred tells them they should have given their German Shepherd a bath before they left. But a couple of scenes later, we find out the reason for the stench is a corpse Fred stashed in the trunk. Once everyone has gone to sleep, he buries the body in the middle of nowhere.

That opening bit is strongly reminiscent of GoodFellas, one of the many movies director Luc Besson ( The Fifth Element, The Professional) references in sly, funny ways. Adapted from Tonino Benacquista’s farcical novel Malavita, The Family is the rare breed of pitch-black comedy that uses violence seriously or comically, depending on the situation.

The Blakes are under the protective eye of a CIA agent (Tommy Lee Jones) who is increasingly exasperated by Fred’s refusal to behave. The former mobster finds a typewriter in the new house and decides to write his memoirs, recounting his criminal past in detail. Writing soothes him, fills his time. But when a plumber tries to fleece him for repairs, he breaks the man’s leg in seven places. And after he finds out the reason the tap water in the house is brown has to do with a nearby chemical processing plant, he builds a bomb.

Fred isn’t the only member of the family with a killer instinct. When Maggie goes to the grocery store and overhears the owner trash-talking Americans in French, she pays for her items with a smile, then blows up the place on her way out. In high school, Warren quickly builds his own network of intimidation, exacting sweet and clever revenge on the kids who bullied him. (D’Leo is terrific in the role, reminiscent of a teenage Joe Pesci who hasn’t yet started stabbing people in the neck with a pen.) Belle is an even tougher cookie, doling out the hurt at some boys who think American girls are all sluts.

The Family is the first English-language movie Besson has directed since 1999’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, but he has written and produced a slew of action pictures in the meantime ( Taken, The Transporter, Colombiana). This movie has a striking visual style, but Besson’s primary focus is on his characters. He balances humor and drama with surgical precision, making us love this crazy family and fear for their safety. The movie is a cartoon, but the stakes are surprisingly real.

Pfeiffer gets to mine the menacing aspect of her beauty — she’s always seemed a little dangerous — and DeNiro, who lately has been going through the motions, seems fully engaged and excited by this role. Fred affords the actor an opportunity to strike a broad range of notes, including a wonderful sequence in which the movie enters meta-territory that would make Martin Scorsese cheer.

The Family climaxes with an extremely suspenseful shootout that leaves a high body count and wracked nerves in its wake. But what you remember most are the funny bits and the unconditional love these twisted family members have for each other. The Addamses have nothing on the Blakes. Just pray they don’t move in next door.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">What’s the secret?</span> Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites are a brother and sister trying to solve the mystery of a demonic mirror in ‘Oculus.’

    Oculus (R)

    Mirrors have been as much of a fixture in horror movies as knives and cats that suddenly jump from the shadows. But they’re best in cameos, as in the ending of Dressed to Kill or the bathroom scene in The Shining. Oculus revolves entirely around an ornate mirror that is, what, a gateway to hell? A summoning force for evil spirits? A really ugly piece of furniture from a medieval Pottery Barn?

  •  
Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman square off in a scene from ‘The Raid 2.’

    The Raid 2 (R)

    Every time you think The Raid 2 can’t possibly top itself, writer-director Gareth Evans goes “Oh, yeah? Watch this.” Most of 2011’s The Raid: Redemption took place inside a tenement raided by a SWAT team to apprehend a mobster and his squad of killers holed up inside. Practically no one survived the movie — the violence was astonishing — but the contained setting and the idea of having events grow hairier for the good guys the higher they went in the building gave the tight 101-minute movie a sense of compressed, relentless action. Now comes The Raid 2 (known as The Raid 2: Bernadal in its native Indonesia), which is far more expansive and complicated, and runs almost 2 ½ hours. Miraculously, the new picture makes the old one feel like Evans was just warming up.

  •  
A sexual addict (Charlotte Gainsbourg) visits a therapist (Jamie Bell) with unorthodox methods to try to help get over her compulsion in ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2’

    NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. 2 (unrated)

    Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 (unrated)

    Things get really kinky in Nymphomaniac Vol. 2, the second chapter in director Lars von Trier’ epic-length saga about a woman who can’t get enough. If you saw Vol. 1, which ended with our perpetually horny heroine Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) losing all feeling in her sexual organs, you might be wondering, “How could this movie outdo the first one?” To quote the great Bachman-Turner Overdrive, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category